Mike ErvinWhen I was in college, way back in the Pleistocene, I signed up for a Marxism class. But I flunked out. Well, actually I dropped out after a week. I was revved up to learn all about Marx and Engels and those bearded, radical dudes, but you know how dense that Marxist stuff can be. Sometimes you need a machete to cut through to the point of it all … the bourgeoisie this and the bourgeoisie that. And there are no laughs in it.

The bearded professor who taught the class seemed to think his job was to make the subject matter even more opaque. He was a glum sort who slunk in, mumbled off a dry lecture and slunk out. He never paused for questions or discussion. After two classes, I was hopelessly lost.  It was obvious I needed to take Marxism for Dummies.

The same thing happened years later when I joined a Marxism discussion group. It was like commie Bible study. The guys who organized it batted back and forth references from Das Kapital like tennis pros. They never came up for air. Witnessing it all made me dizzy. So again, I quickly dropped out.

And yet I call myself a socialist. I can’t explain my socialist convictions by reciting chapter and verse from anyone’s manifesto. They aren’t drawn from ancient texts. They’re drawn from living 60-plus years as a cripple.

The best examples of socialism I see in the world around me are those situations in which we cut out the greedy pigs. For instance, how about parks and libraries? Their reason for being is not so some knucklehead can rake in money. Everyone can partake for free.

Another example is my pit crew. That’s what I call the people I hire to come to my home every day to get me out of bed, lift me onto the crapper, etc. Their wages are paid by a state program. It doesn’t cost me anything. I, and everybody else, pay for it all up front with our taxes. Nobody gets rich. It’s beautiful.

Socialism is what gets me out of bed every day. If getting me out of bed was left up to the greedy pigs, I’d have no choice but to check into one of the nursing home chains they own, without possibility of parole. They’d drain me of whatever money I had until I was poor enough to go on Social Security, and then they’d drain me of that. They’d feed me just enough elbow macaroni, canned fruit cocktail and horse meat to keep me alive, so they could drain me some more.

You gotta keep a close eye on the greedy pigs because they’re sneaky like that. When they smell a potential profit center, they’re like a slobbering bloodhound locked in on a scent. They’ll horn in on socialism and defeat its whole purpose by twisting it into something designed to make them rich. They call it privatization. They’ll do something like set up a “managed care organization” to run state programs like the one that gets me out of bed. And they’ll hire a bunch of social workers to do the same damn stuff the social workers who work for the state used to do. Except the guy who runs the managed care organization gets a big juicy cut of the action.

I know cripples are screwed in socialist systems too. Marx and Engels and those dudes may have been visionary, but I bet they never pondered such weighty political challenges as how to get cripples out of bed. So maybe socialism isn’t precisely the right word for the political system I believe in, but it’s the best word I can come up with so far. So, I’ll take it for now.

Cutting out the greedy pigs is the first necessary step. But then we have to create a welcoming culture that hasn’t been created yet. Maybe someday somebody will spell out what that culture looks like better than I ever could in some sort of cripple manifesto. I hope there are lots of laughs in it.